In the 2022 movie "The Contractor", after a botched job in Germany, Rusty (played by Kiefer Sutherland), the leader of a U.S.-based private military company, allows Mike (played by Ben Foster), one of the two surviving members of the team to return home to the US to his family and he does not want to kill him. But for some reason, he wants to kill the other surviving team member, James (played by Chris Pine). Why is that? What is his motive?

  • 2
    It's been a while since I watched it, but isn't that a setup? IIRC, James was supposed to do the job, help get the virus, and be a scapegoat. Now, I have to watch it again :)
    – OldPadawan
    Aug 18, 2023 at 10:05
  • 1
    I edited my question and added some more background info to the question. Maybe this way it is clearer what I want to know. Thanks!
    – casspir
    Aug 18, 2023 at 10:18
  • 3
    Not great movie, but IIRC, as OldPadawan says, James is the fall guy - Mike means more to Rusty than James does (who is pretty much an outsider). James is expendable and is expected to be dead. Mike was part of the brotherhood, James is nothing. Aug 18, 2023 at 10:31

1 Answer 1


Q: Why does Rusty want to spare Mike but kill James?

  1. Rusty and Mike already team-up in this black-ops team.
  2. Mike knew about the operation, maybe not all the ins and outs though.
  3. James is just the extra hand they need, he's (more than Mike) expendable.

When Mike and James understand that Salim isn't a bio-terrorist at all, but is working on a cure, then James starts to be more careful and suspicious. Once he calls him, Rusty realizes that the mission failed and that his plans are discovered. Therefore, James become a liability and has to be taken. He sends the extraction team to kill him.

Being aware of his plans, James, as the perfect scapegoat/fall guy, has to disappear because he becomes a threat to not only Rusty, but his all organization. Mike can still be an asset, so he's safe, and he can eventually be dealt with later, if needed.

Some references to back up:

This means that the moment James hesitated to give his exact location and other necessary information to Rusty, he put out the kill order on him (harking back to the notion of people like James being disposable for those in power). The Contractor (2022) Movie Explained: Themes & Ending Analysed

He calls Rusty to see if Mike has managed to make it back to the US with the laptop but Rusty tells him that Mike failed to show up. As such, their mission did not go to plan. It can be assumed that Mike is dead and that the intel he received has fallen into the hands of somebody else. Rusty tells James to meet up with an extraction team. But when James gets to the meeting point, a hit squad arrive and tries to kill him. After surviving the attack, James manages to interrogate a member of the squad. During the interrogation, he finds out the identity of the person who hired them to assassinate him. Rusty is the person who betrayed James and sent the hit squad to finish him off. ‘The Contractor’ Ending Explained (emphasis mine)

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .